Australian Access Federation

You are here: Home Corpora Corpus of Oz Early English 4-039 (Original)

4-039 (Original)

Item metadata
author,male,Curr, Edward Micklethwaite,63 addressee
Narrative Discourse
Word Count :
Plaint Text :
Public Written
Clark, 1977
Document metadata

4-039.txt — 4 KB

File contents

As Steele's Creek was rather overstocked with six thousand sheep, according to the notions of those times (when people entertained somewhat princely ideas on the subject of feed for their flocks), it was decided to reduce their numbers, and I accordingly started for Tongala with two thousand of the ewes. My road was by what we now know as Pyalong, Egan's Creek, Redcastle, and Colbinabbin. The summer - for it was the month of December - was hot and dry, and at Mount Camel, or, as the Blacks call it, Yiberithoop, my sheep got their last drink, the distance from Tongala being about fifty-five miles. From Yiberithoop down the Colbinabbin Creek, and across the plains to Tymering, took me, I remember, two days and a half of tedious driving, the sheep being in one lot with two shepherds. As a matter of course I had a bullock-dray with me, on which we carried, amongst other things, a cask of water for ourselves and the sheep dogs, in connection with which arose a dispute between the men which resulted in a serious loss to my father. It happened in this way. As the shepherds toiled over the heated plain, painfully driving before them the thirsty flock, which, accustomed to the green grass of the cool hilly country, could ill support the heat of the plains, the bullock-driver, who was a cantankerous, bad-tempered fellow, overtook them, and refused to allow the men to get a drink from the cask. This of course irritated them not a little, and occasioned a row at our mid-day camp, which ended in my interfering and finally sending the bullock-driver about his business, a step which turned out to be as unfortunate as it was hasty and imprudent. Of course, as the first consequence, I had to tie up my horse behind the dray and drive the team myself, which, however, did not trouble me much. Towards sundown that evening we arrived at Tymering, and camped amongst the she-oaks, and so far everything went on well.
The whole party, however, was a good deal fagged, as our drive of eight miles, which was all we could accomplish, was over treeless plains, under a burning sun, so that nothing but the most constant efforts on our part could keep the sheep moving. It was Christmas-eve, I remember, and a furious hot wind had been blowing the whole day in our faces. Weary, begrimed and half-choked with the dust, with blood-shot eyes and sunburnt faces, the three of us sat at the camp, after having had a pot of tea and something to eat, our thirst but half-quenched, each one by himself, with his back against the leeward side of a tree. The mournful wailing of the wind as it streamed through the she-oak scrub, and our fatigue together, made us disinclined to talk; so we sat in silence, each, I suppose, occupied with his own thoughts. The fierce sirocco was driving before it sticks and leaves; and, in the distance, quantities of peculiar red-coloured bushes were rolling away to the southward, tumbling over and over before the gale. [282] The horizon had that singular wavy appearance which is common to the plains in such weather; no birds were to be seen, but here and there moving columns of dust, grass, and leaves, the result of whirlwinds, towered high in the air; whilst, close at hand, covered with ashes from the small fire, which, though lately kindled, had already burnt itself out, lay our kettle, frying-pan, and pannikins, and the bag containing our gritty meat and damper. To complete the scene there were the panting sheep, and bullocks with protruding tongues; the close-on-setting sun bathing the landscape in a dull red light, suggestive of an eclipse. Altogether it was a melancholy camp that night, and the more so from the reduction in our little party.
The next morning, however, as we took the road at day dawn, we were enjoying all the exhilaration of a change of weather and a light southerly breeze, so that we accomplished about six miles to our day camp before the great heat came on. It being only nine o'clock when we arrived, no probability of being able to get the sheep to move till three, and the distance from Tongala but thirteen miles, I unfortunately determined, being a little sick of the work, and short-handed, to let the bullocks out of the dray, and on my horse drive them into the station to water; having no doubt that a fresh team, with men and dogs, might be back early to bring on the sheep, which were now beginning to get knocked up from thirst. However, though I arrived in good time, and sent out a fresh team with such directions as would have secured satisfactory results if they had been followed, it so happened that the driver allowed his bullocks to give him the slip, went after them, and never returned; there being no doubt that the poor fellow, who was a one-eyed man, lost himself and perished miserably from want of water; whilst, from the delay thus occasioned, five hundred of the flock died the next day, before reaching the river, or shortly after.